Tuesday, December 11, 2007

The "Citizen Kane" of talking chipmunk movies.

Thanks to my ongoing work with Hollywood's Weinstein boys, I got invited last night to a preview of the new soon-to-be-smash-hit movie "Alvin!" It crackled with excitement. The wit was Shavian. The dialogue brought to mind the best of Preston Sturges. All-in-all a veritable tour de force.

OK, let's get serious for a moment. Is today's America so devoid of creativity and imagination that the best we can do for holiday entertainment is resurrect a third-rate cartoon that is memorable mainly for its breakthrough use of helium. I've just heard a report on NPR about more and more animation being shipped to Mumbai and Bangalore. And one of Alvin's producers going on about the detail and realism in the chipmunk's eyebrows and facial expressions. After I cleaned up my vomit, I remarked to myself (the only one listening) that movies--story-telling--is about the story, the characters. It's not about runaway art-direction and technology.

There's a slim chance "Alvin" will be fun. If it turns out that way it will be because of the innocence and camp humor of its plot and the wit of the language. It will not be because of an arched-eyebrow.

Productions values cannot trump originality, humanity and humor. If your work has been eviscerated of those qualities by your own inability or by your client's over-active thyroids, you can pray for a good result. But chances are your name will be attached to another snippet of well-wrought crap.

If you want to see acting and script-writing, chemistry and production at its very best, rent a movie from 1934--the Thin Man, directed by WS Van Dyke and starring Myrna Loy and William Powell. You can turn off the volume completely and just watch the body language between Loy and Powell--and Powell's eyebrows--and you will laugh. Any single frame contains more originality that the entire Alvin opus.

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